The long-term whodunit

Dave Bartlett
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‘The Killing’ is a compelling trio of narratives connected by murder

There was a lot of buzz about AMC’s “The Killing” when it debuted in April 2011.
At first, critics compared the remake of the Danish show “Forbrydelsen” — which translates to “The Crime” and lasted 40 episodes during three seasons — to the classic “Twin Peaks.” But as I remember it, by the end of its 13-episode first season, many had been disappointed by an outcome I still haven’t arrive at. Not yet, at least, as I’m only seven or eight episodes in as I write this.

Joel Kinnaman (Stephen Holder) and Mireille Enos (Sarah Linden) star in “The Killing.” The American remake of a Danish series has come to an end after four seasons of varying lengths. — Submitted image

The show was cancelled twice by AMC, first after its 10-episode second season.

However, the show got a reprieve when Fox Television studios, which produced the show, and the network made a deal with Netflix to keep it going for another six episodes.

When that deal ended, Netflix backed a final six-episodes and uploaded Season 4 of “The Killing” to its service earlier this month.

When I saw the show had ended, yet had been saved from the brink not once but twice, I decided it was time to see if it was any good.

So far, I have to say it is the best show I’ve begun to watch in some time, hands down. And the first show I’ve wanted to binge-watch since I flipped the calendar to 2014.

First of all, the only resemblance to David Lynch’s classic “Twin Peaks” is they both take place in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. and both follow a long-term investigation of a murder of a young girl, where leads are plentiful, but the perpetrator’s identity remains hidden.

Otherwise, the shows are almost completely unique from one another.

“The Killing” revolves around three groups of characters, given almost equal screen time: the homicide detectives, a political campaign team — which is linked to the murder almost immediately — and the victim’s family.

In fact, I can’t think of another whodunit that spends so much time with victims of the crime, with the possible exception of  “Broadchurch,” the BBC series from last year, currently being remade by Fox.

The show has a beautiful, slow pace which follows the parents, two brothers and the aunt of the victim, Rosie Larson, as each deals with her disappearance, and then the death of their daughter, sister or niece in their own way.

There are some nice long shots of the silent and stunned mother Mitch (Michelle Forbes), and an amazing scene where father Stan (Brent Sexton) destroys a gas station washroom in his grief — the only private place he can find to grieve.

The police, meanwhile, painstakingly look at each and every clue. This part of the story also has a family in transition.

The show’s protagonist Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) has arrived at her last day on the job. Soon she will move, with her teenage son Jack (Liam James) to California, quit being a cop and finally marry her financé Rick (Callum Keith Rennie).

But once the case is open, Sarah finds it hard to leave — much to the chagrin of her replacement, and now temporary partner Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman), the Rodney Dangerfield of detectives — he can’t seem to get any respect from the boss, Sarah or many of the witnesses they interview. Of course, he looks and dresses more like a petty crook than a cop, and lacks both patience and tact. He’s a vice cop and this is his first homicide.

Together, however, Linden and Holder make a great pair of TV sleuths.  Finally, after Rosie Larson’s murder is linked to city councilman Darren Richmond’s (Billy Campbell) bid to become mayor, his campaign goes in to political overdrive. But Richmond is torn.

He’s a honest guy and refuses to use the crime to has advantage in the election, despite that the city has a gang problem and a dishonest incumbent who has no problem linking the crime back to Richmond whenever possible.

“The Killing” is beautifully shot and not your everyday crime show in many ways.

The entire cast is fantastic, and for once the police lieutenant isn’t screaming for any arrest as much as he’s telling his detectives to get a stronger case because the charges have to stick. Also think of it this way: each episode of the killing takes place during a roughly 24-hour period.

So a week after Rosie is discovered missing, while a lot has happened, the investigation clearly still has some big pieces of the puzzle to uncover.

I’m waiting for the episode when some earlier fans of the show abandoned it, but so far I’m completely drawn into the lives of these characters and need to know the who and why behind the murder.

Dave Bartlett muses about watching habits, TV shows — new and old —and anything related to whatever he may be watching at the moment. You can get in touch with him at talkingtelevsion@gmail.com.

Organizations: Netflix, Fox Television, BBC

Geographic location: California, Twin Peaks, Pacific Northwest U.S. Richmond

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  • wavy
    August 13, 2014 - 10:01

    Having now watched every episode of the entire series, I'd like to refocus your use of the Rodney Dangerfield analogy as it fittingly analogizes the show itself. The Killing is/ was easily the most unrespected, underappreciated, underrated show of the past 10 years. Maybe it just got lost in the shuffle with so much other good stuff on TV as of late (Breaking Bad, True Detective, Homeland, etc.) Looking back on it now, I would not change a single thing about either season one or two of The Killing. The story arc plays out beautifully and comes to a very satisfying, unpredictable, suspenseful conclusion by the end of season two. I do, however, think AMC really buggered up the marketing of the show which ultimately is what upset fans at the end of season one, driving many of them away, never to return. Pity, because those who stuck around for season two (and beyond) got treated to some of the finest TV going and I know that's a tall statement these days (it is afterall the golden age of television, to borrow a phrase from Vince Gillgan). Instead of hard-labelling them season ONE and season TWO, thereby misleading fans of The Killing, giving them an expectation, the marketing department at AMC really should've considered calling them seasons 1a and 1b, respectively (think final "season" of Breaking Bad). That's how I now regard the first two seasons of The Killing. Stick with it, Dave, and reserve your judgement of The Killing until you've watched the season two finale. Trust me- it's more than worth it. And I dare you not to want to binge-watch seasons 3 and 4, aka seasons 3a and 3b (but that's another story for another day), immediately after you find out who really killed Rosie Larson.